Lions to hold talks over South Africa tour amid coronavirus concerns

By Sports Desk January 02, 2021

The British and Irish Lions are to hold talks over the future of the 2021 tour to South Africa amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

An eight-match trip is scheduled to begin on July 3 and continue into early August, including three Tests against the Springboks, who are the reigning world champions.

However, the continued complications surrounding the COVID-19 health crisis – in the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa – has led to doubts over whether the tour will go ahead as planned. 

In a statement on the team's official website, Lions managing director Ben Calveley confirmed that all involved are in "constant dialogue" over the ever-changing situation. 

Discussions will continue throughout January and February if needs be knowing a decision is required as soon as possible, particularly for those supporters considering travelling to South Africa.

"As you would expect, we are progressing with our plans based on the latest information available to us," Lions managing director Ben Calveley said in a statement.

"However, given the uncertainty that continues to be caused by the coronavirus pandemic both in South Africa, as well as the UK and Ireland, we are very aware of the need to make a timely decision on the best way forward; not least so that we can provide clarity to supporters booked to travel to South Africa next summer, or those thinking of making the trip.

"To date, the Lions Board has had repeated meetings to discuss all scenarios available and is in constant dialogue.

"It will meet throughout January and into February, if required, to review all relevant information and data. After further consultation with SA Rugby, we will update on the outcome of these meetings in due course.

"In the meantime, we continue regular discussion with our partners in the UK, Ireland and South Africa, including the British High Commission in Pretoria, the Irish Embassy and various government departments, to ascertain as much information as possible on this fast-evolving, complex situation."

Warren Gatland is once again due to be in charge of the tourists; the former Wales coach was at the helm for the 2013 victory over Australia, as well as the drawn series with New Zealand four years later. 

The Lions have toured South Africa 13 times previously, including a 2-1 defeat to the Springboks in 2009 when Ian McGeechan was head coach. 

Related items

  • Grealish expresses 'regret' over Almiron comments Grealish expresses 'regret' over Almiron comments

    Jack Grealish expressed remorse for his disparaging comments about Miguel Almiron, admitting "that was one thing I regret".

    The Manchester City winger aimed a harsh jibe at his Newcastle United counterpart in the aftermath of the Citizens' Premier League triumph earlier this year.

    In a clip that went viral, Grealish said he had welcomed the substitution of Riyad Mahrez against Aston Villa on the final day as his team-mate "played like Almiron" – in reference to the Paraguay international's ineffective performances for the Magpies.

    However, Almiron has enjoyed an upturn in form this season and won the Premier League's Player of the Month and Goal of the Month awards for October after scoring six times in six games.

    As he revisited the infamous incident, Grealish revealed his respect for the former Atlanta United player, who he is thrilled to see thriving in the English top flight.

    "I haven't actually been asked about that and let me just address it," the England international told The Independent. "It was the day after the season finished, and obviously I'd had a few drinks.

    "Straight after that, because I didn't realise, we were out celebrating, and I wasn't on my phone on social media. I remember I was in Ibiza, and it had obviously come out. That was one thing I regret.

    "I'm actually buzzing the way he's reacted. He said something about me in the interview the other day, he wished me the best. I thought 'what a guy'.

    "Because if that was me, and somebody had said that about me, I'd have probably been the other way and been like 'f**k it'.

    "I messaged [Newcastle defender] Matt Targett because I'm close with him from Villa and I said to him 'can you message him for me and say to him that I apologise? I obviously didn't mean it'.

    "When I look back on that, that was just one thing that was stupid of me to say. I shouldn't have said it. I didn't realise it was a video to go out, I thought it was just private. But even in private, I shouldn't have said it because he's a fellow professional.

    "I'm actually buzzing for him, I've had a lot of stick off the Newcastle fans and rightly so. At the end of the day, they are backing their player, which I fully understand. He seems like the most harmless, nice guy, so fair play."

    Grealish is on duty with the Three Lions at the World Cup in Qatar, appearing as a substitute in all three of their matches so far, while scoring the final goal of the commanding 6-2 win over Iran.

    The winger will hope to feature again on Sunday, when Gareth Southgate's side lock horns with Senegal at the Al Bayt Stadium for a place in the quarter-finals.

  • Rice: England will never doubt Kane Rice: England will never doubt Kane

    Declan Rice and his England team-mates will never doubt Harry Kane, despite the Three Lions captain's failure to score in the World Cup group stage.

    England scored nine goals en route to finishing top of Group B but Kane is yet to get off the mark in Qatar.

    Kane, who won the Golden Boot in Russia four years ago and is just two behind Wayne Rooney's record haul of 53 Three Lions strikes, has created three of England's goals, becoming the first English player to provide three assists at a World Cup since David Beckham in 2002.

    But Rice has full faith Kane will come up with the goods in the knockout stage.

    "I don't think we should ever doubt Harry," the midfielder said at a press conference on Thursday. "His goalscoring record speaks for itself, what he's done for England.

    "If you're looking, it's two assists now, against Iran for [Raheem] Sterling and the other night for Phil [Foden, against Wales].

    "He's adapted his role now, where he likes to drop in a lot more, and link the play. I think that's where it's good, where we have fast runners.

    "We're all rooting for him to score. He's our captain, that's what we need. I'm sure he will. He'll score in the knockout stages now."

    Rice started his third game in a row at the tournament against Wales on Tuesday, but saw close friend Mason Mount dropped as part of a reshuffle.

    The Chelsea playmaker has often come under fire on social media as a perceived favourite for Gareth Southgate, but Rice said Mount's achievements speak for themselves.

    "I don't need to talk too much about Mase," Rice said. "You know he is one of the best players I've played with. I think that's why Gareth is so keen on him.

    "He's just a team player. His numbers at Chelsea are incredible. He's won the Champions League, won the Super Cup, and for the rest of his career, he can go on and be whatever he wants to be.

    "Let [him] go and do his thing. When he's doing that, it makes me happy seeing my good friend go and perform at the best level."

  • Robshaw convinced Jones is right man to lead England and makes Southgate comparison Robshaw convinced Jones is right man to lead England and makes Southgate comparison

    Chris Robshaw is convinced Eddie Jones remains the right person to lead England at next year's Rugby World Cup and drew comparisons to Gareth Southgate's success in football.

    The Australian endured a difficult November campaign, with defeat to South Africa in their final game capping a worst calendar year performance for the team since 2008.

    With the sport's showpiece tournament set to kick off in France next September, England have 10 months to try and play their way into form and go one better than their run to final in Japan in 2019 where they were downed by the Springboks.

    Robshaw acknowledged it has been a bruising year for England but believes Jones is the right man for the job, likening him to Three Lions boss Southgate, who has defied critics twice in major tournaments.

    "I have been in these situations and the autumn can be tough because you are playing against the best teams in the world," he said at the launch of the Robshaw Kerslake Foundation he has set up with wife Camilla.

    "It is about taking your medicine and thinking, okay, in this competition and in this series we weren't quite good enough, but we can come back stronger.

    "We also have to learn to move forward, you can't look down on it too much because there are still positives to come from it, and we need to think about how we can be better next time we meet.

    "They were saying the same thing about Gareth Southgate and the England football team and now look at how they have played in this World Cup, they have been superb so far.

    "In sport, things change very quickly, and I very much believe Eddie is the right man to lead the squad.

    "From my experience, he is the best man-manager I have ever worked with and his ability to make players better and better.

    "He is someone who will definitely go away and study what went right and very much importantly, what went wrong and why it didn't work.

    "He will want to go back out there and prove people wrong, and I have no doubt he is the right man."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.